Two years ago, a South Korean family visited the United States for a vacation. While here, their 8-month-old son fell off a bed, and hit his head. Though the doctors concluded there was nothing wrong, that didn't stop them from sending a bill to the family for $18,000.
Though her son showed no obvious signs of injury, Jang Yeo Im and her husband were distressed by how upset the tumble seemed to make their son, so they decided to call an ambulance. KHN reports that when EMTs arrived, the child was "crawling on the bed, not appearing to be in any distress." Just to be safe however, the parents decided to send him to the hospital.
If you don’t know why America’s health care system is corrupt and flawed, maybe this will help... This South Kore… https://t.co/x8rABaFCbw— Taylor Newquist (@Taylor Newquist) 1531031207.0
They arrived to see many medical professionals standing by to diagnose their son. The group quickly agreed the child had suffered "no major injuries."
The child, who was bruised on the face, stayed in the hospital for just over 3 hours, during which time he took a nap and drank a bottle of formula.
Two years later, Im's family found out that bottle of formula was worth over $18,000. They received a bill for $18,836. The vast majority was a "trauma activation" charge of $15,666, what the hospital claims are the costs of simply bringing all the professionals to the scene.
Im was flabbergasted by the bill:
It's a huge amount of money for my family. If my baby got special treatment, OK. That would be OK. But he didn't. So why should I have to pay the bill? They did nothing for my son.
The San Francisco hospital stood by its exorbitant fee:
We are the trauma center for a very large, very densely populated area. We deal with so many traumas in this city — car accidents, mass shootings, multiple vehicle collisions. It's expensive to prepare for that.
@SCMPNews This is how medics in the US get millions while patients go bankrupt. Unconscionable.— བོད་རྒྱལ་ལོ།། (@བོད་རྒྱལ་ལོ།།) 1530847329.0
While it's true that "trauma activation" fees (which began in 2002) vary wildly by location, rates are supposed to be substantially lower if a patient doesn't receive 30 minutes of "critical care." Though her child received no such life-saving procedures, Im's experience with the American healthcare system has left her family in serious jeopardy:
I like the USA. There are many things to see when traveling. But the health care system in USA was very bad.